The no. 11 seed UCLA Bruins continue their cinderella ride in the East region when they take on the 2nd seeded Alabama Crimson Tide on Sunday at the Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indiana.
UCLA easily dispatched upstart Abilene Christian in the Round of 32, winning the game by 20 points. This will be the Bruins’ third game in four nights after appearing in the First Four. Meanwhile, Alabama left no doubt why it’s one of the top teams remaining in the big dance as they defeated Maryland by 19 points last Monday.
The UCLA Bruins defeated Michigan State in OT during their First Four assignment. They upset BYU in the Round of 64 and cruised past Abilene Christian in their last outing to reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the last seven NCAA tournaments. It has been an impressive run for a team that barely made the Big Dance after suffering four straight Pac-12 losses.
Bruins sophomore Johnny Juzang led the team with 17 points in their Round of 32 assignment. Juzang is averaging 22.3 points per game in three tournament games after leading the team in scoring during the regular season at 15.1 points per contest. Junior forward Cody Riley added 12 points and 12 boards against Abilene Christian.
Defense was the key in their last game as the Bruins limited Abilene Christian to 4-19 shooting from three-point distance and only 29.8% field goal shooting The disciplined and deliberate Bruins finished the regular season ranked 34th in the nation in three-point shooting and was 26th in defensive rebounding despite not being a big team. UCLA’s rebound rate of 52.9 also ranked 49th in the entire nation.
Head coach Nate Oats was brought to Alabama to revive the school’s basketball program. In just his second year as bench tactician, Oats is just one victory away from tying the school’s most successful run in the NCAA men’s basketball competition. The 26-6 Crimson Tide are one win from joining the school’s 2004 team as the only group to make the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.
Jaden Shackleford leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game. He topped the team against Maryland, scoring 21 points while making 5 out of 8 three-point baskets. Senior guard John Petty Jr. added 20 points with 3-4 three-point shooting after making only 8 of 34 shots in his previous three games. Overall, Alabama made 16-33 three-pointers and had the edge in rebounding at 40-19.
Alabama ranks 10th in the nation in tempo and takes their shots after only 14.4 seconds spent in their shot clock. The Crimson Tide rank second in adjusted defensive efficiency after finishing 111th in that department last season. Behind SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Herb Jones, the Alabama defense has conceded 68 or fewer points in five out of their last eight games.
UCLA is 13-7 SU in their last 20 games played. The Bruins are 4-9 SU in their last 13 games played in March, and 6-1 SU in their last seven Sunday games. Alabama is 8-0 SU in their last eight games played. The Crimson Tide are 7-0 SU in their last seven games played in March. Head to head, the Bruins have won three out of the last four meetings between these two teams.
Mick Cronin’s team has the tools to slow down Alabama’s high-scoring offense. They run a methodical pace that is ranked 337th in the nation in tempo and are taking 18.8 seconds per possession. UCLA also takes good care of the ball and hits the boards hard.
Alabama is a handful for any defense to handle. They demolished slow-paced Maryland 96-77 by making 53% of their shots and hitting 16/33 three-pointers.
I think UCLA will show up for this game and give Alabama a good fight. However, the Crimson Tide looks like a Final Four team right now and UCLA doesn’t have the best transition defense in the nation. Alabama pulls away in the second half and takes another double-digit win.
Prediction: Alabama -275
UCLA is 4-1 ATS in their last five games played. The Bruins are 4-1 ATS in their last five games played against the Southeastern Conference, 10-4 ATS in their last 14 Sunday games, 4-1 ATS in their last five games against an opponent with a winning SU record, 17-7-1 ATS in their last 25 games after an ATS win, and 9-3 ATS in their last dozen games as the betting underdog. Alabama is 5-2 ATS in their last seven games played and 5-2 ATS in their last seven games as the betting favorite. The Crimson Tide are also 5-2 ATS after a straight up win, and 23-10 in their last 33 games after an ATS win. They are only 2-5-1 ATS in their last eight Sunday games and 1-5 ATS in their last six NCAA tournament games as the betting favorites. Head to head, the Crimson Tide have covered in each of their last three meetings against UCLA.
UCLA has silenced its doubters by winning its first three tournament games against Michigan State, BYU, and Abilene Christian to make the Sweet 16. However, Alabama will be a different and much better opponent. The Crimson Tide play at a fast pace and they like to run opponents out of the building. UCLA’s deliberate style could slow them down but Alabama is looking like a Final Four team right now. Both teams have covered the spread well as of late but Alabama has the more talented team.
Prediction: Alabama -6.5
The total has gone under in six out of the last seven games of UCLA against an opponent with a winning percentage of above .600. The under is 5-1 in their last six NCAA tournament games played, and 5-2 in their last seven games after a straight up win. The over is 7-3 in their last 10 games after an ATS win and also 8-3 in their last 11 games as betting underdog in the NCAA tournament. The total has gone over in each of the last eight games played by Alabama. The over is 8-1 in their last nine games after scoring at least 90 points in their previous game. The total has gone under in each of their last four games against an opponent with a winning straight up record, and 6-2 in their last eight against an opponent with a winning percentage of at least. 600.
UCLA is one of the most efficient offenses in their first three tournament games, shooting at a 47% clip and going 25-53 from downtown. On the other hand, Alabama loves to push the pace in transition which comprises 34.5% of their shot attempts. The Crimson Tide also enjoys shooting three-pointers with 39.7% of their total points scored from deep. The Bruins can slow the game down if they want to but unless they make all their shots, they’re going to fall in a deep hole. The only way they stop Alabama is if they go toe to toe on offense.
Prediction: Over 145.5
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